March is when many fishermen make their first trips, and with them comes a rash of boat trailers limping to the shop. For those who store boats at the coast, trailer problems with service a few blocks away is one thing it can get ugly and expensive on the highway.
Fact is, while your boat trailer might sit idle all winter, there are gremlins at work every day. Whether in closed storage, tarped, or just sitting in the yard. Here's a pre-road checklist for heading-off trailer problems before they wreck your fun and/or your boat investment.
- Once a month, check tire air pressure and take note of tire wear. Aluminum wheels will develop corrosion when salt water gets between the tire bead and wheel. You might not see it until five to seven years but it is coming. Installing inner tubes or replacing wheels is the only sure cure. Galvanized wheels have a better record for longevity.
- Tire dry rot can occur rapidly in open storage where UV causes rubber to deteriorate. Small cracks are the first sign of weakness and replacement is again the only cure.
- Wheel bearings could last the life of the trailer with proper maintenance. Jacking the wheels off the ground and checking bearing end-play should be done at least once annually. With the tire off the ground, place a pry bar under the tire and lift maximum allowable end-play is 1/16 inch. Spin the wheel and listen; even slight noise needs investigation. Inject lube and spin the wheel again. If end-play comes into spec and noise disappears, you're good to go. If noise ceases but end-play remains, the bearings need adjusted. Complete hub service is required if noise persists.
- Pay close attention to wheel studs and lug nuts. We recommend removing lug nuts and cleaning stud threads with dry wire brush annually. Always torque lug nuts to manufacturer's specs. Apply Corrosion-X to outside after torquing.
- Dissimilar metals corrosion can occur between hubs and aluminum wheels, sometimes making wheels nearly impossible to remove. The only fix is periodic cleaning, and marine grease.
- When the boat is off the trailer, carefully inspect bunk boards. Any sign of looseness, decay, weakness or cracking, worn carpeting, etc., needs repair as soon as possible.
- Conduct a thorough check of running and marker lights every time the trailer is hooked up. Trailers over 4400 GVW are now required to be inspected annually and those with brakes must be in working condition.
- The hitch clasp needs a locking pin. If yours is missing or damaged, repair/replace as necessary before towing. Ditto safety chains!
Trailer trouble can ruin a great outing and it is 100% preventable. Don't forget the spare, always carry a jack and four-way wrench, extra hub and, last but not least never assume, "It'll be OK." Coastal Bend Marine maintains free air service at 125 PSI (24-7-365) at the base of our 36 foot tall business sign for your tire inflation needs.
Have a great spring fishing season and thanks for your business! -Chris Mapp
Coastal Bend Marine
Port O'Connor, TX